Taco paradise at El Paraiso

Taco paradise at El Paraiso

A few years ago I made it my New Year’s resolution to eat at every taco place in Ogden. I tried to go out for tacos a few times a month, but I stilled failed to reach my lofty goal.

A quick search on Yelp brings up 124 results for “Best Tacos in Ogden, UT.” Granted, that list includes venues like the taco bar at the Golden Corral and multiple restaurants outside Ogden city limits, but there is no shortage of great taquerias, restaurants and taco carts operating in Ogden.

When I was given the enviable task of writing a taco review for GO! I decided to head to Taqueria y Torteria El Paraiso in downtown Ogden. The small restaurant opened in 2013 in a bright blue cinderblock building on Wall Avenue near 26th Street, just south of Union Station. While the physical restaurant is the backbone of the business, El Paraiso is also known for operating one of the taco carts outside the Ogden Municipal Building most of the week.

For this review I went to El Paraiso’s restaurant on Tuesday morning for an early lunch. The restaurant was already packed by the time I arrived at 11:30.

Inside, 11 tables fill the compact, purple dining area. At the entrance is a single counter with the menu glowing on the wall in Spanish and English. The menu is simple and broken down into two columns. One column lists a dozen types of tacos and the other lists a dozen varieties of tortas.

Owner and chef Efraim Cardona describes the torta gigantes — which he compares to a giant Mexican sub sandwich — as their specialty, but he also acknowledges that the vast majority of people come in to order tacos. When I arrived, everyone had gone with the tacos.

The street-style tacos here are small, simple and delicious. Each one-dollar taco is made up of a pile of meat on a pair of corn tortillas. Any additional toppings — including lime, cilantro, onions, and a variety of salsas — can be found in the center of the restaurant.

The item that keeps bringing me back to El Paraiso is the chicken tacos. The chicken seasoning is spicy and the meat is juicy, but not too wet. I think this is the best taco I’ve ever found in Ogden, especially when it is topped with some cilantro, lime and the pureed jalepeño and cilantro salsa.

On this latest visit, I decided to stick with a couple chicken tacos, but also try some new flavors. I ordered a carne asada taco, which Cardona says is their most popular item, as well as one barbacoa, one chile verde and one lengua taco. I topped each taco with cilantro and lime and then mixed and matched a few different salsas.

After trying everything, I still have to say that the chicken is my favorite. However, the lengua (beef tongue) taco was also delicious and a nice contrast to the spicy chicken. I rarely eat pork, but I tried the chile verde (pork cooked with green chile) at someone’s recommendation and I’m glad I did. It was rich and had just the right amount of heat.

The carne asada was slightly overcooked, but it was the one item besides chicken that I’ve tried numerous times in the past and it has always been excellent, so this won’t stop me from trying again. The barbacoa (barbecue) was the only one that I was neutral on. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the most flavorful. And the chicken, lengua and chile verde were so delicious in comparison.

Overall, I plan to continue trying to reach my goal of eating at every taco place in Ogden, but El Paraiso will remain a regular lunch spot.